1 Timothy 6

Today read 1 Timothy 6.

What motivates people who teach false doctrine? According to verse 4, it is pride: “they are conceited.” And, wouldn’t you have to be? To set forth your own ideas as if they were scripture, one would need an over-inflated self-confidence. Another motivation is greed; verse 5 says that false teachers “think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

Instead of bringing us wealth, however, godliness teaches us contentment. Verses 6-8 say, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” This world has many nice things to offer but the person who accumulates them all will leave them all behind when he dies. When Steve Jobs died in 2011, he was worth over $10 billion but a beggar who died with nothing on the same day took the same amount of wealth into eternity. As Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” If you walk with God, however, and learn to trust him, having the basics will be all that you need. Again 1 Timothy 6:8 says, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

This is what false teachers miss. They think that novel ideas about God will be a path to wealth that will given them satisfaction. Instead, they may find prosperity but miss the real gain of walking with God–a life of true satisfaction.

Are you content with what you have? Or do you think that more of something (or everything) will bring you more satisfaction? Money doesn’t by happiness but godliness brings contentment. Focus on your walk with God and let him satisfy you as no material thing can.

1 Timothy 5

Today’s reading is from 1 Timothy 5.

Our faith as Christians is about more than our beliefs. It is a gift from God that transforms us, including the way that we think about and act toward other people. Here in 1 Timothy 5, Paul spelled out some of the ways in which Christians should regard and act toward other Christians who are of different from us are in age, sex, and social status.

Our society thrives on segmenting the population by categories like age, income, race, sex (at least, for now), and interest areas. It makes it easier to target people and market specific products to them if a person can be clustered into a category and–especially–if their tastes can be influenced. Pickup trucks, for example, are sold to industries and contractors who find them useful for work. But they are also marketed to young(ish) men who live in the suburbs (see here). I’m sure they also know that these men watch sports, which sports are most popular among them, what kind of music they like, and other details like that.

When society is segmented like this, it creates peer pressure within that segment to conform. The more a person conforms to what is “normal” his or her demographic, the more that person differs from people in other demographics. And, the more that people-groups differ from other people-groups, the more distrust and even disdain can exist between these groups.

All of this is reflected in the American church. Instead of seeing churches that are multi-generational, multi-racial, multi-economical (what? I couldn’t think of a word for diverse in income), we have white churches, black churches, cowboy churches, hipster churches, churches for baby boomers, and on and on (and on). Our church is no exception to this although I wish we were and I’d like to get there someday, somehow. That’s because of passages like the one here in 1 Timothy 5. Instead of looking down on older men, they should be treated like fathers in the church, according to verse 1. Instead of viewing younger men as slackers, they should be treated like brothers. Older women in the church should be valued like we value our mothers and younger women as sisters. Widows shouldn’t be relegated to the sidelines; they should be “caring for their own family” (v. 4) and be cared for by God’s people when they are “really in need.”

The church has paid a high price for this kind segmentation. The transfer of knowledge and wisdom from generation to generation gets lost when all the baby-boomers go to one church an all the hipsters go to their own. Instead of learning to love others of a different race or income level, we ignore or even distrust them because of their differences.

I don’t know any way to solve this other than sacrificial love from the spiritually mature. If you love Jesus, make it your goal to befriend some people who are as different from you as possible. Learn how to listen to their needs and problems and do what you can to serve them.

If you are a teen or young adult reading this, please know that middle-age, older, and even–especially–elderly people could help you grow in your faith and avoid some of the mistakes that we’ve made. Give us a chance; we’d love to encourage you and disciple you if you’re open to it. Maybe one way to practice this is for you to join one of our small groups and let us talk with you and get to know you. Your life as a Christian will be enriched for it.

1 Timothy 4

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 4.

In today’s chapter, Paul turned to address Timothy personally. After warning him about prophesies that some would abandon the faith (vv. 1-4), Paul spoke about the importance of tending to his own spiritual life (vv. 6-10). The key verse in this paragraph is verse 7b: “train yourself to be godly.” The word train is deliberately chosen from athletics. We see this in verse 8 which talks about the limited value of “physical training.” Godliness, therefore, is like working out in that it must be done consistently. You can go to the gym today and work out until you can’t walk but tomorrow you will see no difference in the mirror. If that’s all the training you do for this month, you won’t be any stronger or faster. But, if you work out regularly, you will build muscle. That will start to affect your appearance and you will be able to perform better athletically over all. So it is with godliness. If we become godly by “training ourselves,” we need to work on cultivating godliness regularly.

Some of you told me early on in these devotionals that this format has helped you build a Bible reading habit into your life. That’s great and it is exactly what I was trying to do. If you are going to keep growing stronger in your faith and in godliness, you need to keep reading scripture daily and also cultivate the habits of prayer, worshipping with our church family, and finding a place to serve. If you have established a Bible reading habit this year, keep going! See it through to the end of the year, then continue with another approach next year.

Reading God’s word is only one step in the process. Once we’ve been taught by the word, we need to do what the word commands us to do through obedience. This is how we learn to “be godly” (v. 7) not just aspire to godliness or know what it means to be godly.

1 Timothy 3

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 3.

The church at Ephesus, where Timothy was when he received this letter from Paul, was the only church whose elders Paul summoned when he was nearby (Acts 20:17-21). In his words to them in Acts 20, Paul warned them that, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” It seems clear that this had happened by the time 1 Timothy was written. The fact that Paul sent Timothy there to confront false teachers (1 Tim 1) and the fact that Paul laid out the qualifications for elder and deacon here in 1 Timothy 3 indicates that the leadership of the church at Ephesus was deeply compromised and needed to be rebuilt.

Notice in the list of qualifications for elder in verses 1-7 and deacon in verses 8-13 contain nothing about a man’s business success, social standing, or ability to donate lots of money to the church. Instead, the church needed men who had been changed by God’s grace in ways that showed. “Above reproach” is a broad category. It describes someone who has a strong, clean track record of honest and integrity in and out of the church. The rest of the qualifications are more specific dealing with his moral character (vv. 2-3), family life (vv. 4-5), and stability in the faith (vv. 6-7).

Were the problems in Ephesus the result of poor choices for elder or the result of elders who changed after they became leaders? We don’t know but either thing can happen. While we should look carefully at an elder’s life before and while he serves in that role, we should also remember that elders are human and subject to the same temptations and struggles that any other person has. So, we who serve the Lord need your prayers. We need you to pray for us to walk in the faith and to be strong against the temptations that all Christians face. Please take a moment and pray for the elders of our church this morning. Thank God for the ways in which you’ve seen God use them in your life or in our church, then ask God to strengthen us and protect us from doctrinal deviation and sin.

1 Timothy 2

Today we’re reading 1 Timothy 2.

One of the common objections heard against our faith is that it is exclusive. If Jesus is the only way to God, then what about people who worship God through other religions. Will they miss salvation even though they have a desire to know God?

The answer is yes, according to verse 5 of our passage today: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” It is common to hear that every religion is worshipping the same God, just by a different name. The Bible, however, calls worship of any other god than the true God idolatry. The reason is that “there is one God.” Verse 5 went on to say that there is “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” The only way to know the one true God, to worship him, and receive his forgiveness is through Jesus. Why? Because he “gave himself as a ransom.” Only the death of Christ on our behalf made reconciliation with God possible. Any other religion, in addition to saying things about God that contradict the Christian description of God, lacks a solution to the problem of sin.

But notice the next phrase in verse 6: “…for all people.” This truth goes against the idea that our faith is exclusive. It is exclusive in the sense that there is only one way–Jesus–so he is the exclusive way to God. But our faith is not exclusive in the sense that it is restricted to only one type of person. The salvation Jesus purchased, and the good news about knowing God he brought us, is for every kind of person on earth–Jew or Gentile, slave or free, wealthy or poor, male or female, Japanese or Lebanese, or any other way that people can be categorized.

This is why Paul began this chapter by urging us to pray “for all people” (v. 1). We should pray for the gospel to go everywhere there are people. In verse 2, Paul specified that we should pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives….” This is a request for the authorities of the world to leave us alone so that the gospel can advance to all the world without interference or persecution.

When you pray, remember to pray for the world. Specifically, pray that people all over the world will learn about the one true God and the one mediator, the man–our Lord–Christ Jesus. Pray that those who are taking the gospel everywhere will do so without being persecuted or interfered with so that all kinds of people will be “saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (v. 4).

1 Timothy 1

Today’s devotional reading is 1 Timothy 1.

When we read Acts 19, way back on May 24, I noted that Ephesus was an important place in the story of the New Testament. Paul spent two years there on his third missionary journey. Then, toward the end of that journey (Acts 20), he stopped nearby and called the elders of the Ephesian church so that he could speak with them and pray with them. Of course, he also wrote the New Testament book we call “Ephesians” to that church as well.

Things were not well in the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter we call 1 Timothy. Paul had been released from the house arrest we read about in Acts 28 and was out planting churches again when he heard reports of false doctrine in the church at Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). He sent Timothy there to “command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer.” In verse 5, he said, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” These verses indicate how important good doctrine–pure doctrine–is to the health of the church. Good doctrine creates “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” which produces love in God’s people which makes the church a loving, Christ-like place. Bad doctrine, then, corrupts one’s faith and one’s “good conscience” (v. 19) which inevitably leads to problems in the church–both problems between people and moral problems within people.

Doctrine is not a popular subject in the church. Instead, churches today run on emotionalism, entertainment, and self-help. Emotions have an important place and making disciples involves helping believers deal with their problems but if that plus entertaining services is what a church is about, that church will not be able to withstand the winds of false doctrine. False doctrine hollows out a church, corrupting the pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith (v. 5) God called us to have as followers of Christ. So, never denigrate doctrine or underestimate its importance in your life or in the church. Instead, learn the great doctrines of our faith and let them purify your heart and strengthen your conscience. Then, as we learn and grow together in the truth, we will become a loving place.

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28–29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 22, Psalms 28–29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 2 Timothy 1.

Second Timothy is the most personal of all of Paul’s New Testament letters. Although he intended it to be read to the entire church at Ephesus (4:22: “Grace be with you all”), he addressed it only to Timothy (v. 2) and even called him “my dear son” in the same verse. He assured Timothy of his constant prayers for him (v. 3: “night and day”) and told him, “I long to see you” (v. 4). When speaking of Timothy’s faith, Paul noted that it “first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” I believe in divine election—the doctrine that everyone who believes in Jesus was chosen by God based only on God’s grace. One might think that election would look sort of random with a person here and there from various families; however, this passage and personal experience both demonstrate that salvation frequently runs through family lines. This is because God wants—and has always wanted—generations of believers. It is a beautiful thing to see the grace of God saving one generation after another in a human family. As the members of that family trust Christ and follow him in baptism, as they grow in their faith and become holy, an entire family tree begins to show how different it looks when an entire family belongs to God and lives for his glory. If you came from a Christian family, that is something to give thanks for. It is also something to ask God to help you pass on to your children and grandchildren—whether you came from a godly family or not.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.